AKG Ara: One-minute review
The AKG Ara is a very good USB microphone. Considering the sea of USB mics you have to wade through to choose one, it’s good that this mic is an easy recommendation. Yes, there are options from Razer, Elgato, HyperX, Blue, and more, but AKG has been building solid microphones since computers were the size of an average-sized room. So the company knows what it’s doing.
It’s not a perfect microphone as we’ll see. But anyone trying to get great audio for little money should consider it. It’s easy to use as it’s plug-and-play, sounds great, especially for the price, and has enough functionality for most people.
If you need something with just a few more features, however, the slightly more expensive AKG Lyra covers much of the same ground as the Ara and includes the few things we wish the Ara had.
AKG Ara: Price and availability
- How much does it cost? $99 (£111, AU$219)
- Where is it available? Available now
- Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK and Australia
AKG Ara: SPECIFICATIONS
Sampling rate: 24 bit 96kHz
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Features: Double standard
The younger sibling of the 2019 AKG Lyra, the AKG Ara is a little newer, having hit shelves in early September 2021. It’s also cheaper, costing $99 (£111, AU$219), while the Lyra will cost $149 (£149, AU$269). Of course, this price difference boils down to the fact that the Ara is a stripped down version of the Lyra. He only has two polar patterns for Lyra’s four and is more limited in his internal controls.
Even though it’s a simpler microphone, the AKG Ara offers a lot of value for the price. Of course, there are some cheaper options out there, like JLab’s Go Talk or the no-frills Blue Snowball, both of which cost around half. But, the Ara is a much more solid mic with a beefier build. Considering the AKG has been in the mic game for a long time, the Ara probably sounds a little better too.
Most decent USB microphones will cost the same or more. And, going the non-USB microphone route will cost you a lot more, as you’ll need an interface and a microphone. Cheap audio interfaces will cost around $100/£100 and a proper microphone will start at the same price. That’s $200/£200 at the cheapest.
In short, the AKG Ara is worth more than the cost of entry.
AKG Ara: Design
- no gain control
- Hinged and beautiful stand
AKG mics were popular long before USB mics existed. So it’s no wonder the AKG Ara is as well built as it is. From the base and stand to the actual microphone body and grille, the whole thing appears to be constructed of sturdy metal. It also comes in an elegant and understated colorway of silver and dark blue.
With a wide, tapered microphone body, as well as a round base and swiveling stand, the Ara looks like it would fit on a presenter’s desk in the 1960s. Of course, there are some distinctly modern touches.
For starters, two control dials protrude from the front of the microphone. The top lets you select between your two mic patterns, front and front and back, while the bottom controls head volume. You can also press the lower dial to mute the microphone.
The only thing we miss here is any kind of gain control. While many traditional dynamic and condenser mics do not have volume controls, many USB mics do. That’s because most non-USB microphones are plugged into an interface with various controls, including gain. With USB microphones, on the other hand, the interface is integrated into the microphone. That’s why you have ports like a headphone jack and USB-C port included on the back of the Ara.
As far as the stand goes, while it doesn’t have a swivel, it’s still ergonomic enough for most people to use. For starters, it’s light enough to pick up and adjust, weighing in at 1.46 pounds. Even better, you can tilt it nearly 360 degrees as it will go backwards or forwards until the mic head hits the stand. And the joints where the stand meets the microphone have screws that can be tightened to keep the microphone tilted in a specific direction. The base is also screwed on so you can mount it on a stand.
AKG Ara: Performance
- plug and play
- It has a rich sound, although a little heavy in the background.
- susceptible to shock
One of the main benefits of USB microphones is the ease of use, which is certainly the case with the AKG Ara. There’s no real configuration here as it’s plug-and-play. It even appeared in Reason 11, a program we had trouble getting other USB mics to work with due to driver issues – something common among USB mics.
The microphone itself has a nice, full sound with plenty of volume. In fact, it’s almost too high. This is where this gain control would come in handy. It’s much easier to adjust the gain on the microphone than it is on your DAW. And, if your signal distorts along the way, it doesn’t matter what adjustments you make to the recorded audio.
It also produces a bit heavy sound on the bottom when in the front polar pattern. But, if you can adjust the bass via EQ, the mids are nice and rich, and the trebles are decently clear. What you get overall is a rich but balanced sound. It even sounds good on guitars that way. That said, this low-end can help those who work with voice, whether it’s for a YouTube video, a podcast, or streaming.
When using the front and rear polar pattern, the low end of the mic is much more restricted, a strange change considering we tested its big brother, the AKG Lyra, and never heard much of a sonic difference between its four polar patterns. But, it makes it sound more usable whether you’re streaming or recording.
Regarding polar patterns, Ara has only two, front (or cardioid) and front and back which is a figure eight pattern. While we preferred an omnidirectional pattern for the second, the front and rear pattern works well to pick up both sides of the mic equally. This makes it ideal for conversations between two people, like you would if you had a podcast.
The only place we wish it was a little better is this mic’s sensitivity to vibrations and bumps. While all mics receive taps on the mic body, most use something to minimize vibrations on their mount, such as shock mounts. Support for the Ara works well for just about anything, but its solid construction means vibrations through the surface it’s on can get through to your audio. The Ara still picks up vibrations quite clearly when we hit the table it’s on, for example.
Should I buy the AKG Ara?
Don’t buy if…
AKG Ara: Bulletin
|Value||There may be cheaper USB mics out there, but we doubt they’re as good as this.||4.5 / 5|
|Project||Aside from the missing gain control, this is a well-assembled microphone with a sturdy, swiveling stand.||4.5 / 5|
|acting||The mic has a nice, full sound that lends itself well to EQ. We just wish the mic didn’t pick up physical vibrations as easily as it does.||4.5 / 5|
|Total||While that missing gain control is an issue, there’s not much else to blame here, especially considering how good it looks for the price.||4.5 / 5|
- reviewed for the first time November 2022
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